Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FZ38 (or FZ35 as it’s known in America and Australasia) is a 12.1 Megapixel super-zoom camera with DSLR-styling and an 18x optical range. Announced in July 2009, one year after its predecessor, it continues Panasonic’s enormously popular FZ line of super-zoom cameras.
The new FZ38 / FZ35 inherits a number of key features from its predecessor, the FZ28, including the same 18x optical range that’s equivalent to 27-486mm in 35mm terms. It also shares essentially the body and controls, along with the same 2.7in / 230k fixed screen at the rear. Indeed the only ‘headline’ specification that’s changed is the inevitable increase in resolution from 10.1 to 12.1 Megapixels.
Under the hood however the new FZ38 / FZ35 features a number of smaller, but worthy enhancements, several of which we’ve already seen on other 2009 Lumix models including the eternally popular TZ7 / ZS3.
As such the best quality movie mode may remain 720p (1280×720 pixels), but you now have the choice of encoding it in the more efficient AVCHD format or the older, but easier to edit Motion JPEG format. Panasonic has also fitted a red record button on the rear of the camera, allowing you to start recording footage, regardless of the mode you’re in. That said, like the higher-end Lumix GH1, there’s also a new Creative Movie mode on the main dial which allows you to manually adjust the aperture and shutter for video recording.
The already capable Intelligent Auto mode has also been improved with Face Recognition, also seen on the TZ7 / ZS3, which can actually remember specific faces and give them priority in a group shot. A High Dynamic mode has been added to the Scene Presets and lower power components in the camera have also allowed an extension in battery life.
The zoom range may remain the same as before, but the MEGA OIS optical image stabilisation has now been superseded by POWER OIS, which Panasonic claims is around twice as effective at eliminating camera shake. A higher-speed actuator also brings a welcome improvement to autofocusing speed, and startup time has also been reduced.
And just before you think all the improvements are internal, Panasonic has also equipped the FZ38 / FZ35 with a mini HDMI port for digital connection to a HDTV – compatible Panasonic sets can even control the camera’s playback over HDMI using their remotes. Finally topping the FZ38 / FZ35’s popup flash head are stereo microphones, both improving the quality of the movie mode’s audio along with delivering two channels of sound.
So Panasonic may have resisted the temptation to compete for the title of World’s longest super-zoom, and kept the screen firmly fixed in position, but it’s added a broad number of useful enhancements which should hopefully make what was already a great super-zoom camera that much better. The question of course is has it succeeded?
In our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 / FZ35 full review we’ll take a detailed look at all the new features and put them through its paces. Evaluating a camera in isolation is of limited use, so as always we tested the new Panasonic against its biggest rival: Canon’s PowerShot SX20 IS. So if you’re in the market for a super-zoom digital camera, read on to find out if your money should be spent on Panasonic’s latest.
We tested a final production Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 / FZ35 running firmware version 1.0. Following our convention of testing cameras using their factory default settings unless otherwise stated, the FZ38 / FZ35 was set to 12M Fine JPEG mode with Auto White Balance, Multiple Metering, and the default zero positions for Picture Adjustments. Image Stabilisation was enabled for all handheld shots and disabled for tripod-based tests.